5 Best Practice Tips for Electronic Records Management

Records management and data archiving are often deemed as convoluted yet inevitable processes within an organization. The rules and legislation can be overwhelming, especially within the current business climate that is quite data-driven and prone to change in terms of rules and laws. Regardless of the size of your company or the industry you operate in, taking care of data archiving, information protection, and records management when it comes to compliance should be among your top-priority operations.

With the constant tightening of the regulations, the organizations that are non-compliant operate at a significantly high risk of long-term and rather pricey consequences. The risk involves the potential reputation damage that can hurt a company in the long run, the loss of trust among its clientele, as well as facing hefty fines and punitive measures.

This is why we decided to provide you with 5 best practice tips for having a proper electronic records management and data archiving strategy in place in order to prevent non-compliance and potential business damaging risks. 

1. Track, Monitor & Record the Right Data 

Effective documents/files/data management tactic is vital for coming up with proper eDRMS (Electronic Document and Records Management System) that should contribute to a company’s compliance to all the necessary legislative requirements. For example, when a business cannot access and/or retrieve required documents because they have been lost or got stolen, it can lead to complicated legal issues and/or a company’s inability to fulfill FOI-based (Freedom of Information) requests, resulting in punitive measures. 

This renders eDRMS one of the main components of your ability to protect, monitor, record, and properly archive company secrets, intellectual property and valuable data (both yours and your clients’). Here are some of the most relevant features a potent and effective eDRMS should include: 

  • Automated document capturing and classification of both data and metadata. 
  • High accessibility of documents. 
  • The ability to track and pinpoint specific content according to metadata trails. 
  • The right levels of manageability of content across various cloud or on-premise repositories, network drives, computer hard drives, applications, etc. 
  • The right levels of manageability of all records (physical, digital, hybrid), as well as social media records, email messages and attachments, and other similar communication channels. 
  • Proper archiving and provision of defensible audit trails of the records that have been deleted. This preservation of historical actions and metadata help with identifying unauthorized activity.

It is also crucial that all these operations are incorporated and handled in such a way so they do not hinder the teams’ workflow and everyday processes.

2. Create an Optimal Records Management Strategy

All companies should gravitate toward having a parsimonious records management plan that is as clear as possible. The data structures, information architectures, procedures and other processes are often quite complicated ecosystems, so make sure your strategy is tight and created in accordance with all the necessary policies and industry standards. 

Perform thorough research, document your records, optimize data management procedures, and make sure your employees have access to all the necessary information and documentation related to your strategy. Create and implement the logical access-level structure in terms of who can access which type of data, and determine which files require what level of protection and archiving in order to optimize costs as well. 

3. The Accuracy & Efficiency of Information Architecture 

The way your infrastructure and information architecture are connected and intertwined is important for the efficiency of all your systems. Our recommendation is to treat your information architecture as a scheme-based framework (or blueprint) for your data storage. This way your data governance strategy will have a strong and logical infrastructure that will allow you to have secure and easily accessible documents that are properly archived and disposed of at the end of their lifecycle. 

Here are two critical components to think about when creating your data architecture: 

Business Classification Scheme 

We recommend managing information by grouping related documents together, so you can properly label them. Then, it is a good practice to create a master arrangement and allocate each content group accordingly in a taxonomy-like manner. This enables you to search, access and manage specific documents quickly and easily, as well as provide appropriate user permissions so your employees have access to the right pieces of data according to content classification groups. 

Data Lifecycle Design 

Not all data is made equal, which means that different types of data require different lifecycles and approaches to retention and disposal policies and schedules. Taking proper steps in terms of data lifecycle strategies such as implementing optimal email archiving solutions, for example, can help you meet the required legal and compliance-based obligations with all the necessary laws, rules, and regulations. They can also help you perform triage in terms of data relevance and help you define which pieces of data should be retained in your records and for how long before being disposed of. These methods prevent the destruction of critical files, reduce data retrieval time, allow you to optimize archiving costs, and minimize your risks of non-compliance. 

4. Turn Your Physical Records Into Digital Data

In case your organization hasn’t yet taken care of turning all the physical records into zeroes and ones, we highly recommend you get on this task, regardless of how time-consuming the procedure may be. This will help you improve the efficiency of operational tasks and make all your data easily accessible as digital records are orders of magnitude quicker and easier to access and manage than physical files. This allows for substantial cost reductions in terms of physical storage, while it also lowers the risk of your information getting damaged or destroyed in disaster-event scenarios. 

5. Regular Strategy & Policy Reviews 

Last but not least – be sure to perform annual audits of your data management systems as these are not one-off projects. It is important to do annual reviews and assessments of both external and internal compliance to all the necessary rules, industry standards, legislation and other laws as they may change over time. 

These audits can also be quite beneficial in terms of measuring the efficacy of your records managing approaches and help you mitigate redundant tasks and components of your strategy and in so doing optimize and improve your data managing efforts across all teams and departments

Here are some useful questions you could use to evaluate your data-archiving and record-keeping operations: 

  • Do all the aspects of my strategy match the intent, language and purpose of all the policies and legislation?  
  • If no, where is room for improvement?  
  • Is there a possibility to make my policies and strategies more streamlined and time-efficient? 
  • Are there any components of my records management strategy that go off track? How do I obviate these derailing examples and figure out what causes these issues?  

We hope this article was helpful enough and wish you a strong Records Management Strategy!

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PlanetCompliance does not claim to be exhaustive, instead we are helpful for any contribution from our users, and the content on this platform does not constitute legal advice.

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